Tragedy has once again struck the Spanish fishing industry, this time in the northwest region of Galicia. The vessel Villa de Pitanxo, which operates from the port of Marín in the province of Pontevedra, sank in the waters of Newfoundland and Labrador, a province of the eastern coast of Canada, with 24 crew members on board. By Tuesday night, only three survivors had been confirmed by the Canadian authorities, with the rescue operation complicated by freezing temperatures. The provisional death toll last night stood at 10.
The company that operates the vessel was unable to clarify how the accident had happened, and also had no information about the number of victims and missing crew members. A spokesperson from the Nores group said: “We are receiving news, but much of it is confusing and contradictory, so we must be prudent because there are a lot of families behind this tragedy,” he told EL PAÍS.
The company, which is headquartered in the port of Marín, owns eight vessels and counts on more than 300 employees. On Tuesday, relatives and friends of the missing crew were seen coming and going from the firm. “We don’t know if our nephew is alive and we are incredibly concerned,” one woman stated on her way to the company.
Of the 24 crew members on the vessel, at least 11 lived in Galicia and among them were sailors from Peru and Ghana. On Tuesday afternoon, it was confirmed that the skipper, Juan Padín Costa, and his nephew Eduardo Rial Padín, were among the survivors. They were on one of the three lifeboats that were rescued, while the fourth could not be found. A third survivor has been reported as being a citizen of Ghana, according to La Voz de Galicia.
As time passed on Tuesday, the death toll increased. “All we can do is pray,” said Elisabeth, the aunt of Jonathan Calderón, 39, while she awaited news from the company. Sara Prieto, the girlfriend of Eduardo Rial, explained that she had received a message from him on Monday saying that the weather was very bad. “We found out about the accident from a friend and the media, because the company didn’t warn us,” Prieto complained. “When we spoke to the company they just told us that three of the crew had been found,” she added, explaining that her boyfriend had been sailing on the ship for five years, and had many more years of experience.
On Tuesday night the rescue operation continued, and a Canadian frigate was due to join the search, which was being made difficult due to waves up to five meters high. The shipwreck took place at night, making the operation even more difficult.
Two fishing vessels that were in the area, one Portuguese and one Spanish, were the first to locate the bodies and survivors. The surviving crew were suffering from hypothermic shock due to the low temperatures of the water.
The accident took place 250 nautical miles off the coast of St. John, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador. As well as the Canadian Coast Guard ship Cygnus, a Cormorant helicopter, a Hercules C130 plane and several other support ships as well as two Galician fishing vessels took part in the search.
Last night, the relatives were still waiting news from the shipping company, which explained that it was working to convey all of the information that had been sent from the Canadian authorities. An official statement, however, was not made until nearly 24 hours after the shipwreck.